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Showing posts with label big's backyard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label big's backyard. Show all posts

Friday, October 22, 2021

Why I Run Backyard Ultras and Why I'm Dead Set on Running Big's Backyard


Scott Snell Beast coast trail running backyard ultra finish

My three key reasons why the backyard race format attracts me:
  • The pressure and excitement of having a hard cut off time constantly looming.
  • The opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were.
  • Reaching a deeper state of being.
This past weekend I followed along online via tweets and facebook status updates as runners ran a 4.1667 mile loop every hour on the hour beginning at 7 AM Saturday and into the following week at the original backyard ultra, Big’s Backyard. The backyard race format is simply a matter of elimination where the winner is the last runner remaining after all other runners have been eliminated as a process of attrition. Every runner must complete the loop within the hour and start another loop at the beginning of the next hour. Any runner that fails to do either is eliminated. This continues indefinitely until one runner is the last one standing and the winner. After 70+ hours of running, three runners remained in the race (eventually Harvey Lewis would win it with 85 laps or 354.2 miles). It was then that the thought occurred to me, “many people would consider this to be torture.” I have a differing opinion. Watching these athletes push themselves to and beyond the point of exhaustion and knowing that they volunteered themselves for that experience out of their own free will only filled me with inspiration and awe. It also gave me a whole lot of FOMO and stoked my fire to earn my spot at Big’s in 2022.

I certainly have not made a secret of my intentions to run at Big’s. However, I don’t think I have ever explained in depth why I set this as my “A” goal above all other racing or FKT goals. Before explaining why running at Big’s became my highest priority goal, I feel the need to explain how I became interested in this race format to begin with. It began with an interest in Laz as a person and as a race director. Running the Barkley Marathon never really piqued my interest. The race and format interests me, I just have never had any intent at the time of learning about it or since to run it myself. His backyard format race though immediately made me wonder how long I would last and how far I could go. Then seeing records broken and competitors dig and push the boundaries of what I thought was possible I became increasingly intrigued with the format and wanted to test myself at it.

To my benefit, and likely in large part due to Courtney Dauwalter’s amazing performance at the 2018 Big’s, the backyard format started gaining more attention and received much wider coverage. This led to numerous backyard format races popping up throughout the US and eventually worldwide. In 2019, a backyard format race, Run Ragged, that was pretty local to me was announced. I registered for it and a question on the registration form was “How many laps do you plan to run?” I answered as honestly as I could at the time with my knowledge of backyards and my goal for the race, “One lap more than the second to last person standing.” Yes, maybe it was cocky, but I was going there with the intention of winning.

After doing just that and assessing my experience at Run Ragged, I didn’t know if I even liked the format or if I would ever do another. What the format introduced me to that I had not experienced previously was the feeling of chasing cut offs. I’m not trying to brag as I am by no means an amazingly fast runner, I would consider myself a middle of the pack runner at best, but I had never feared missing a cut off at any standard set distance races I had run. I had never felt stressed to make it to an aid station with the clock counting down to a cut off time. My first experience with that was at Run Ragged as that is essentially what a backyard format is, a 4.1667 mile loop with a one hour cut off. You are always within one hour of missing a cut off no matter your average pace. This was a form of stress new to me while racing and a completely novel experience. At first, I didn’t think I liked it, but over time and with more experiences, I have come to enjoy the excitement this sort of pressure to perform brings to racing.

As an additional beneficial effect of the relentless and never-ending pressure of looming cut offs, the backyard race format also provides an opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were. Everyone has their own reasons for running in general and anyone who gets into ultrarunning usually has additional reasons for pursuing that niche of the running world. A major reason why I was attracted to ultrarunning was to find my limit and to see what my mind and body are capable of when pushed beyond what I accepted their limits to be. After several years of running set distance ultras, I felt like I was still pushing myself, but not to the point where I was questioning if finishing was possible. After the first couple 100 milers, I no longer questioned if I would finish. It simply became a matter of when. That reason alone drew my attention to backyards. Since there can be only one finisher, everyone else will find their limit on that given day. That’s what attracted me to ultras to begin with, to find my limit. The backyard format could finally deliver that to me so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards them. After running several backyards (Run Ragged, Last Idiot Standing, Keystone Backyard Ultra, and Backyard Squatch Ultra) and being the last runner standing without having found my limit, I concluded I needed to go bigger and enter bigger backyard races with deeper fields. What backyard could be bigger than the originator of the backyard format, Big’s Backyard? My mind was made up, I would run at Big’s. No more being a big fish in a little pond, I wanted to run with the big dogs at Big’s.


The other major attraction of the backyard format for me (at the risk of sounding all new age and hokey) is that it encourages the runner to seek out and embrace a transcendental state of running. It allows the physical act of running to act as a key to access a spiritual or nonphysical realm. I’ve said many times that endurance running is only a physical feat to a certain point, then it becomes a mental challenge. This statement is even more true of a race without a set finish line. The idea in itself seems a bit supernatural to begin with: to run continuously for an indefinite distance or time. Most rational people (runners or not) would likely have an issue with this concept. I embrace it for the fact that I am so in love with those short episodes of time while running where I lose track of time, pace, and miles; I feel like I’m floating effortlessly and not even thinking about running or effort. They start and end unexpectedly. I don’t think they can be consciously induced; they seem to just happen for me. I don’t even notice that I’m having one of those episodes during it; it always occurs to me after it’s over and I look at my watch wondering where the time went and how I covered so many miles unknowingly. I think Harvey Lewis was describing this state immediately after winning Big’s this year when he said at times he was running pain free and felt like he could run forever. I believe he called it reaching “running nirvana”. What better way to attempt to achieve a state of “running nirvana” than to run beyond the limits of what your logical and rational mind has accepted as possible?

So far, this post has covered my key reasons for being attracted to the backyard race format. I haven’t specifically state why I made Big’s Backyard my goal race to reach. I hinted at it with the topic of running more competitive backyards with deeper fields, but there are other backyard races out there that have resulted in some pretty impressive distances run, much farther than I have ever gone or thought possible. Why did I pick Big’s over others? An additional motivating factor for me is to earn a spot as a member of the USA National Backyard Team, representing the USA running with some of the best backyard runners in the world: Courtney Dauwalter, Maggie Guterl, Harvey Lewis, and Michael Wardian among others. The only opportunity to achieve this is at Big’s. I think most kids dream about achieving the pinnacle of success in some sport, whether it be winning the super bowl or an Olympic gold medal. I had these dreams as a kid too, but none of them panned out. Now I have an opportunity to reach what I would say is or at least near the pinnacle of backyard ultrarunning, to earn a spot on the USA National Team. I believe I am capable of achieving that so in my view I’m doing a disservice to myself to not pursue it.

Scott Snell
October 22, 2021








Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ramblings On Backyard Ultras and the Undefeatable Human Spirit





I usually plan out my blog posts. I usually don’t put together a formal outline, but I at least have an idea of one in my head and will put at least a few notes or bullet points down on paper prior to beginning to write just to make sure I don’t forget to include any of the major points I intended to cover. This is not one of those posts. Tonight was the first night of running that it finally felt like the temperature dropped after the sunset. I think it was cooler than it has been since early spring this year. It’s strange when it takes a cool run after dark to realize how quickly the seasons are shifting from one to the next. Time doesn’t wait. Night to day, season to season, and year after year. It’s relentless. During this run while thinking about time relentlessly pressing on, I decided I would write this free form, unplanned blog post just to see where it led and what end result would be produced.

The main thing I thought I would write about was how I currently have no races on my schedule and I’m pretty much ok with it. I’m at the point after my last race (almost a month) that I would usually start experiencing some of the post race blues without having the next goal to conquer on my calendar. I’m not really feeling that as much this time or the need to sign up for anything. I’m guessing the reason why is because although I’m not registered for any races as of now, I know I have a race on my agenda next May, the Capital Backyard Ultra (CBU). I earned a guaranteed spot at CBU by winning the Last Squatch Standing this past August. The winner of the 2022 CBU will receive a guaranteed spot on the USA team at the 2022 Big Dog’s Backyard International Satellite Championship. It is a momentous race for me. It is a chance for me to earn a spot to represent the USA in an International competition of the best backyard runners from around the world. It struck me during my run tonight that this could be the most important race of my life. With that thought in my head, I vowed to make the months leading up to it my most focused months of training ever.

If I train hard and smart January through May, I know I’ll be ready for CBU physically. But the mental side of backyards can break you and end your run just as quickly as any physical issue. I was considering a gym membership to increase my running miles starting in January when weather can make outdoor running less enjoyable in my opinion, but I’m not so sure. I began to think that forcing myself out the door in freezing temps and running through slushy streets may help me nurture that determination that’s needed during a backyard ultra to get up and go out for another 4.167 miles when your mind and body may be advising otherwise. I mean that’s all this format is after the physical aspect, just a mental battle between the logical part of your brain that knows this must stop at some point and the other side of your brain that refuses to quit even though your muscles have been relaying the message to your brain that they’re spent.

I can’t explain what it is that keeps other runners going in these backyard races. I’m not even sure what it is for me all the time. I like to think it’s a reflection of my well honed sense of determination. I’m not the greatest or most talented runner, but I am a pretty determined person. I like to think it’s a display of the undefeatable human spirit to not accept defeat even if it seems the mind and body have accepted defeat. I feel that I was on the precipice of that situation a couple times at backyard races. Somehow, I found the will and desire to keep pushing on even when my brain was providing me logical justifications to quit and body parts were signaling their surrender.

I don’t know what will happen at CBU. I hope to have a good day. I hope to run my longest distance ever. I hope to be the last person standing. But hope can be lost quickly during a backyard ultra. The mind can be defeated in unforeseen ways. Some aspects are not in my control. What I can control is my training and my goal for race day. My training will be on point. I am committed to making that happen. My goal is simple, to go out for every loop on the hour until I am either timed out or I am the last person standing.



Scott Snell
9/24/21

Saturday, September 4, 2021

2021 Backyard Squatch Ultra - Paving a Path To Big's Backyard





“I just have to keep running. I can control that. That’s all I can do.” That’s the conclusion I came to at some point during the second day of the Backyard Squatch Ultra when I was beginning to lose hope and feared it was only a matter of time until I DNFed (Did Not Finish). That was my lowest point of the race, mentally at least, and thankfully it only lasted a couple hours until it passed and then we ran into a second night without sleep.

The story of the race starts about a week before the actual race when I packed the car to head out on a week long camping trip with the family leading up to race weekend. You could say the story starts long before that with when I decided to give up smoking and replace it with running, but that’s a much longer story than I intend to tell in this report. So, I’ll stick with the camping trip the week before the race.

Plans for both the camping trip and the race all fell into place about a month before they happened. The announcement for the race went public about a month before race day. It was only a matter of a week or two before we were informed that our family had been moved off the waitlist and had a spot at the YMCA family camp we we’re hoping to go to in Frost Valley, NY. It seemed to happen quickly and the timing felt serendipitous. Before I knew it, I had plans for a week of camping and a weekend of racing another backyard format ultra to close out the summer with a bang!

beast coast trail running scott snell running gear
All my gear ready to go the night before.

The Backyard Squatch Ultra was NJ’s first official backyard format race. What is a backyard format race? Basically, runners run a 4.166667 mile loop every hour on the hour. If they don’t finish the loop within the hour they are out of the race with a DNF. This continues until there is one runner left standing who is the winner when they complete one lap more than any other runner. If you want to learn more about the details and rules, just google Bigs Backyard. That race and its race director, Laz, is the originator of the race format.

As NJ’s first official backyard format race, I was pumped to be a part of the Backyard Squatch Ultra! I had run Pennsylvania’s first official backyard format race, the Keystone Backyard Ultra, in May where I was the last person standing with 129 miles. I had also run two other backyards, Run Ragged 2019 and Last Idiot Standing 2019, where I was also the last person standing at both. With my streak of performances at backyards, I put a ton of pressure on myself to perform well and do everything within my ability to avoid a DNF at the Backyard Squatch.

beast coast trail running scott snell at the backyard squatch ultra
With my boys just before the start!

My training between Keystone and the Backyard Squatch was pretty much exactly what I wanted to do even though I didn’t know for certain which race I was training for. I knew I wanted to do another backyard before the end of the year, I just didn’t know when or where. The bulk of my training was all below threshold runs, just running what felt like an easy comfortable pace. I don’t follow a schedule. I run when I have time between personal and professional responsibilities. I usually do a long run every 2-3 weeks depending on time available and what I’m training for.

I was a bit worried about my taper period coinciding with a week of camping. We did some hiking and I did a couple short runs during the camping trip and it ended up feeling like a really great taper week. I wasn’t inactive, but my legs got a rest from the normal number of miles they cover. Mentally, it was great for the week before the race to be away and be 100% focused on family time. Usually I get anxious the week leading up to a race, especially a race where I really want to push myself to perform well. With all the activities during the week of camping, I didn’t think about the race anywhere near the amount I would have during an otherwise normal week’s schedule. This was great for me as I felt refreshed mentally, spiritually, and physically before making the drive to Stokes State Forest where the Backyard Squatch was held.

Arriving at the race on Saturday morning felt like returning home after being away on a long trip. I hadn’t run a Sassquad Trail Running race in a couple years and the vibe and community that race director Kim Levinsky has built around her races, or “trail parties” as she calls them, is amazing. As far as I can tell, every runner there is made to feel special by the amazing group of Sassquad Trail Running volunteers.

The race used two courses, a mostly single track trail lollipop loop for daylight hours and a mostly paved road out and back for night laps, both starting from the Stony Lake Day Use Area. The trail loop was all runnable with a few more technical sections and a little under 400 feet of elevation gain. The trail loop started with a quick descent down to hop on a road for only maybe a few hundred feet to cross a bridge before getting back on a single track trail. The first mile was the stick of the lollipop and was a gentle, non-technical uphill on the way out. At the “Y” that started the loop of the lollipop the trail began to descend through a slightly technical section with some rocks but still runnable. The trail then dumped us out on a short, maybe half mile, rolling downhill section of road before turning back on to a trail. This was about the halfway point, roughly two miles, of the lap. The next half mile or so of trail felt more like a fire road with a gentle incline. It was runnable, but I always hiked it and ate a gel at that point. Then you crossed a small bridge and went through a little rock garden which was the most technical part of the course. From there it was mostly short, gentle ups and downs of non-technical single track until returning to the “Y” and having about a mile of gentle downhill that you cruise in on before making it back to the aid station.

beast coast trail running scott snell backyard squatch
My family crewing for me between laps.

With the 10 AM start, we ran the trail loop 10 times (41 miles) before switching to the night road course at 8 PM. These miles were uneventful for me, which is a good thing for this type of race. I just got comfortable with my routine of running about a 55 minute lap then sitting, refueling, discarding my gel wrapper, and grabbing an additional gel for the halfway point of the next lap. I didn’t feel rushed between laps and my pace felt comfortable. I was still taking the time to take a selfie between each lap at this point. My family stayed to see me between laps for the first few hours, then they left for the bulk of the day to have some fun at the nearby High Point State Park and climb the High Point Monument. They returned before we switched to the night course to wish me luck through the night, then they headed to the cabin that we had luckily been able to reserve for Friday and Saturday night only a week earlier. When I returned from the first loop after they left I found a lovely surprise, an inspiring note they left that read “Dear Dad, You got this! We love you go for one more.”

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell The note left from my family going into the first night.
The note left from my family going into the first night.

With the heartfelt message in my mind and knowing that my family was good for the night in the cabin, I left on my first night loop on the road course. The road course is mostly gently rolling hills. Even though it was road and foot placement was less of a concern and trip hazards were few and far compared to the trail course, it did have its share of rough patches and potholes. Let’s just say you needed a headlamp and had to keep your eyes open. This was the first backyard I had run that used a second course for the dark hours, so this was a new experience for me that I was looking forward to. I liked it for the fact that it broke up the monotony a bit and provided a bit of a change in scenery and feel. My main trepidation was how my legs and body would react to running roads after so many miles on the trail. Yes, I did feel the impact more on the road, but it felt like a good trade to be able to run with less concern about foot placement and having the chance to give all those extra stabilizing muscles you need on the trails a chance to relax.

I didn’t give it much thought before the race, but a good deal of runners switched from trail shoes to road shoes for the road course. I brought additional shoes and socks, but I was only intending to change if I was having any foot issues. Also, I was running in my Altra Timps which I typically use for my mixed road and trail runs so I figured I’d just use them as long as they kept feeling ok. Thankfully, they felt good for the entire race so I never changed my shoes or socks.

Beast coast trail running scott snell The single pair of socks (Darn Tough) and shoes (Altra Timp) I wore for the entire race. backyard squatch
The single pair of socks (Darn Tough) and shoes (Altra Timp) I wore for the entire race.

The night portion of the race went well for me. All of my night laps were about a minute or two faster than my trail laps. It was over night that the field started thinning out more noticeably. We lost a few runners during the day on the trail, but when the numbers got lower and most other runners I was chatting with were chasing personal distance records, their absence at the start of a new loop stood out more. The fact that every runner starts every lap on the hour together provides a chance to run with runners you may not normally be near when running a traditional race. In my opinion, this is one of the aspects of backyard races that makes them so cool. If an elite like Courntey Dauwalter or Harvey Lewis shows up at the same race as you, you’re running with them or at least starting every lap with them.

When daylight returned and we finished the 24th lap to complete 100 miles we had four runners left in the race. We were all greeted upon our successful completion of that lap with a true Sassquad trail party. There was a unicorn, a sasquatch, and a volunteer presenting us with a 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Kim herself! Of the four runners, one was hitting the 100 mile mark for the first time ever and was dropping after that lap. Another just wanted to hit 100 and then improve his distance personal record a little more so he stuck around for a 25th lap (YEAH JIMMIE!!!). That left me and Justin Kousky still in the race. Prior to the race, I did a little Ultrasignup stalking and of everyone I stalked I had pegged Justin as the guy who would likely be one of the final two in the race. I had hoped I’d have a good day and I would be the other half of the last two standing and thankfully that’s how the race played out. So everything had gone as expected thus far, but based on Justin’s stellar Ultrasignup record and the many unsupported, lengthy FKTs he held, I had no idea what to expect after this point. I’ve heard it said that these backyard races don’t actually start until after the 24 hour mark, and I would say that is how it felt to me at the time.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell The 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Race Director Kim Levinsky.
The 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Race Director Kim Levinsky.

With just the two of us left, it no longer felt like a trail party. It quickly shifted from a party vibe to feeling like a true competition to me at this point. From what I could tell, Justin had his game face on and was in it to win it, as was I, but in this style of race there can only be one that succeeds.

My lowest point came between one of my laps during the second day, maybe around the 30 hour mark. My wife started telling me about what she had found out about Justin and how good of a runner he is with some really impressive wins and FKTs. I knew this already, but hearing her say it after a night without sleep and over 100 miles on my legs made the idea of going up against him in a last person standing race seem even more daunting. At the time, it felt like my wife was telling me that it’s ok to lose to him because I’m just outmatched. This led to some pretty negative thoughts in my head which is not a good way to be in a last person standing race. I began thinking that everyone there, including my wife and kids, was sure he was going to win. My oldest son had been enthusiastically telling me “You got this Dad!” between every lap. But when he said it this time it sounded sad and defeated like he didn’t believe it anymore. I believed that I was the last person there that thought I had a chance of winning. I went back out to run a lap with that thought in my head. When I got up to go back out for that lap, I said “I just have to keep running. I can control that. That’s all I can do.”

My outlook began to change at the next aid stop when I expressed my concerns out loud to my wife. When I told her this, she said that it wasn’t true. She went on to tell me that Kim had put out a call on Facebook to get more volunteers in because she was expecting the race to go into, if not through, a second night. It was also during this aid stop that Kim came over to my aid area to say that if I wanted any cooked food from the aid station just to let her know and she would get it for me. I asked for coffee. It was too hot to drink more than a few sips at that stop, but my wife loaded it up with sugar and let it cool so it was ready at my next stop. That next stop was a real mental turning point for me. I got a good deal of caffeine and sugar in me from the awesome coffee my wife prepped. I ate a piece of pizza that a glorious volunteer brought (THANK YOU!!!). My wife wiped down my legs, cleaning them of all the trail dust that had accumulated and stuck from all the trail miles. I felt more refreshed and ready to keep going on that 33rd or so lap than I had felt at pretty much any point during that second day.

Approaching the starting corral to head out for that lap I congratulated Kim. She didn’t know what I was congratulating her for at the time and gave me a confused look. I then explained, congrats for her race, NJ’s first backyard, as it had now officially gone longer than Pennsylvania’s first backyard race. We high fived and my mind was in a good spot again and I was happy. I was beginning to feel the wear and tear from the miles, but I was still enjoying them. I was floating through the trail section as easily as the first day; I found myself catching a toe and stumbling a few times. Once I nearly fell, but caught myself by putting my hand down in a patch of poison ivy which thankfully only led to a couple blisters on my wrist and not a full blown rash. I also knew we only had a few more trail laps left before we switched back to the road, and I was pumped to have that change of scenery and lowered concern for trip hazards to look forward to.

Of all the points of the race, my highest was the first road lap for the second night, my 35th lap. I drank more sugary coffee and ate a second piece of pizza just before heading out. I had over 141 miles on my legs, but they still felt ok and I knew they could at least get me through the night loops. I thought to myself “I’m only a 100k away from running my first 200 miler!” This had me pumped! And the icing on the cake, after eating pizza and turning my Aftershokz headphones back on, the song “Pizza Day” by the Aquabats came on! It was too perfect. It felt like everything was in perfect order. I was floating on the road, painlessly and almost effortlessly moving past my previous distance personal record of 129 miles. I was singing along to “Pizza Day” running on a NJ State Forest road in the dark just loving where life had led me.

With the switch back to the road course, my pace picked up. So did Justin’s, by a much greater degree than mine. It made me curious and wonder what he was up to. Was it a mind game? Maybe. Then I thought maybe he’s banking some time with the intention of sneaking in a quick nap before the next lap. At that point all I could do was guess. I would find out when I got back.

When I did get back with close to 10 minutes until the start of the next lap, I was shocked. My family and Kim were all standing under the tent that marked the starting line. They were all smiles and all cheered for me as I came in saying “way to go Scott!” I was confused. It was just another lap. We’d been doing this for over 30 hours. What the hell made this one different? That’s when they told me that Justin wasn’t going back out for the 36th lap. I didn’t believe it. He was looking too strong to stop. He had just run his last lap in about 44 minutes. I started questioning it and that’s when Justin spoke up. I hadn’t seen him where he was sitting just to the side of the tent in his chair. He said that he was done and was “officially throwing in the towel.” I started almost arguing with him, telling him can’t quit when he just hammered that last road lap. His mind was made up though. I gave him a fist bump and we chatted a bit, probably more than we had in the last 35 hours of running together. The competition was over and our game faces dropped. It felt like a sudden shift of attitudes towards each other. It felt like we almost instantaneously went from competitors to bros. I was thanking him for pushing me so far and he was telling me what a great competitor I was and how my race plan and execution was all on point. That’s what I love about this race format. It is SO competitive, but there is so much respect and admiration between the runners that are pushing one another to amazing performances. It felt great and I was loving the chat, but it had to be brief. I still had to get back out to complete one more lap.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell presented award from Race Director Kim Levinsky as winner of the Backyard Squatch Ultra
Race Director Kim Levinsky presents the award.

I went through my normal aid routine and then was sent back out with cheers for my final lap. I decided I was going to empty the tank on this lap and see what my legs could do after 146 miles of running. I ran that entire road and out and back, hills and all. I made it back to the aid area in about 40 minutes flat, surprised that I could still run a 4.16667 mile loop with a sub 10 minute/mile average. After receiving my share of congrats, Kim presented me with the Last Person Standing trophy and allowed my two older boys the honor of putting the “X” on the board they were using to track all the runners’ laps. It felt so great to have my family there with me to experience the finish of a backyard ultra with me! She also let me know that this was the first official bronze ticket qualifier backyard for the 2022 Big’s backyard and wished me luck as I advanced on to the next backyard race on the road to Big’s.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell at Stokes State Forest
My boys getting ready to mark my final lap as complete!

As the last person standing at a bronze qualifier event, I am now guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Capital Backyard which is a silver ticket event. The winner there is guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Big’s international satellite backyard competition. The winner there is guaranteed a spot at the 2023 Big’s World Championship Backyard. At least that is my understanding of how Laz has adjusted his schedule of backyard races, with Big’s being the US team’s satellite location on even years and the Backyard World Championship location on odd years. If I’ve misunderstood something or got it completely wrong, please reach out to me and let me know. What this all means to me is that I will likely get pushed to go even farther at my next backyard at Capital. This year’s race there went for 57 hours or 237.5 miles. Am I a bit frightened by that? Yes. But does that mean I don’t want to take a crack at bettering my distance personal record and being the last person standing there? Of course not! That’s what backyards are about: pushing yourself to your limit, going beyond what you ever thought you were capable of, and finding an additional fire buried deep in you to keep going when you don’t want to or don’t think you can. I am excited and look forward to digging deeper than I ever have before, becoming animalistic with my sole simplistic purpose being to continue moving forward in spite of my mind and body’s proclamations to stop.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell wins the Backyard Squatch Ultra
My family with me at the finish! Best feeling ever!





Scott Snell
September 4, 2021

Saturday, July 31, 2021

First Time on a Podcast - Under the Tent



Under The Tent: Episode 2 - Scott Snell
Scott Snell is an avid ultra runner and is making his move in the backyard ultra scene. Scott has picked up wins at both the Run Ragged and Keystone Backyard Ultras. He is a father of three boys and has the added challenge of both balancing family time and time on the trails. You can follow Scott's blog "Beast Coast Trail Running" for more info and insight into his career.


I was more nervous than I probably should have been, but I guess that was no surprise since I'm not an extremely outgoing person in general. I'm usually not the one to start up a conversation with a stranger. Not that I don't want to talk to people, it’s just that I'm a bit introverted and initiating conversations feels especially difficult for me. The fact that this conversation I was about to have was going to be recorded and made public was kind of a scary thought to me. But I was going to be talking about running, mostly ultrarunning. So, I saw that as reward enough to make the uneasiness and anxiety I was feeling make the experience as a whole a worthwhile endeavor. This anxiety inducing running related experience was the opportunity to be a guest on a new running podcast.

The podcast title is “Under the Tent'' hosted by Brandon Fogarty who I met at the Keystone Backyard Ultra in May this year. My initial reaction was of excitement as it was the first time any podcast host had asked me to be a guest. I love running. I love writing and talking about running. My wife has heard more about ultras from me than she ever wanted to. So why wouldn’t I be excited about being asked to talk about ultrarunning with another runner? As the time to record got closer, I became more nervous and less excited. I worried I’d say something dumb or just stumble on my words too much. It mostly just felt like fear of judgment when you’re completely unsure how many people are going to listen to the conversation you’re about to have. I’m sure these were all pretty normal fears for almost all first-time podcast guests.

After chatting with Brandon for about an hour, we said goodbye and then I began to wonder how it went and how I sounded. I felt like it went pretty well immediately afterwards. I did honestly have fun chatting about the backyard race format and recounting a few stories of races I’ve run, but as time went on, I began to think of things I should have said. Other ways I should have answered certain questions. I’m guessing this is pretty normal for most podcast guests and hosts alike for that matter. I’m sure thoughts of everything from “I wish I would have followed up with this question instead” to “I should have mentioned that story from that race” to “Damn it! I should have credited that person and publicly thanked them!” are pretty standard fare for everyone following a podcast recording.

For me, I felt like my last example (Damn it! I should have credited that person and publicly thanked them!”) was my biggest flub. Who did I forget to thank? My wife of course. When Brandon asked about being a father of three and managing the responsibilities there with running and training for ultramarathons, I feel like I completely missed the mark on that question. I started talking about priorities and how as much as I love running, I still prioritize a quality family life over my running life. Which is true for me and I still stand by that, but in retrospect it was the perfect time to mention the primary reason I’m able to pursue my passion for running and chase my running goals is due to the sacrifices my wife makes to allow that to happen. It was the perfect time to credit her and thank her for her enormous and vital role in any running goals I reach. But I failed to do it at the time.

Now as I’m writing this and giving more thought to this podcast interview and the differences of the dialog format that I’m less comfortable with versus the written format that I’m accustomed to, I’m not surprised I have so many worries about whether what I said was good enough or how I could have improved the discussion. When I write race reports or more general blog posts I write, read it, read it again, rewrite, and reread and on and on until I am content with it. To me, it feels like there is more room to make errors and more opportunity to fix those errors with the written format than the recorded dialog. However, the recorded dialog can lead to discussions and topics that never would have percolated out if writing alone. So there truly is a beauty and set of unique benefits to both.

Given the circumstances, I’m happy I took the opportunity to be a guest on Brandon’s podcast. I still haven’t heard the recording yet at this point, but if nothing else the experience allowed me to have an hour-long chat with another runner all about ultrarunning. And maybe the most valuable lesson I learned as a result was that it reminded me to be grateful to my wife for making it possible for me to pursue my passion while maintaining a healthy family life with our kids at home. Additionally, it reminded me that I should let her know how thankful I am for that more often. So, with that final thought, here is what my answer should have been during the podcast:

I couldn’t do what I do without my saint of a wife, Amanda. Without her endless support my running achievements would not have been possible. She has encouraged me and pushed me to achieve more than I thought I was capable of on many occasions. She has helped me become a better version of myself than the self that I knew or thought I was destined to be. From helping me to carve time out of our busy family and work lives to generously applying lubricant to my severely chafed body parts, she has been one of my greatest blessings in my running life and beyond. Weekends that would have been just me getting away by myself for a race weekend became mini vacation family camping trips with Amanda caring for the kids while I’m out running overnight. Those types of trips mean excess stress and work on her end and extra special aid station support and finish line moments for me when my entire family is waiting there for me.

We have a friend who says that Amanda is “too nice for this world”. I couldn’t agree more. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but I could understand how if taken from a different perspective it could sound like someone pointing out a flaw. Although, at least in my opinion, if a person’s greatest shortcoming is being too nice for this world then it is the world that is at fault, not the person. It’s not that Amanda is too nice for this world; it’s that this world isn’t nice enough for her.



Scott Snell
July 31, 2021

Monday, July 19, 2021

2021 Goals Status Check: Big's or bust



It’s July and we’re past the midpoint of 2021. We’ve just been informed via our social media feeds that the moon is wobbling and that it will cause more extreme and more frequent coastal flooding in the year 2030, but other than that 2021 is going relatively well. I’ve already checked two boxes on my running goals list for this year and they were the two targets that I most wanted to complete successfully. Those two goals were (1) to test myself and see what I am capable of at a 24 hour timed event and (2) to PR my greatest distance run. Two remaining goals are more measures of progress on a long term project (run every single street of Egg Harbor Township) and overall fitness (12 minute aerobic fitness test). The final goal (FKT attempt) was and is still more dependent on what race opportunities present themselves and what kind of crew support I can manage to wrangle together.

I’m pretty happy and proud of having already accomplished my primary running goals this year. Overall, my 24 hour race (Adventure Trail Run) went really well. I didn’t hit my goal of setting a new course record, but I did go home with a first place overall finish with about 103 miles. Taking another crack at it next year is something I’m definitely considering. I PR’d my greatest distance ever run at the inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra with about 129 miles. My previous longest was 106 miles. This was the kind of mileage increase I was hoping to do last year when I only bettered my longest distance by about 2 miles.


My long term project of running Every Single Street of Egg Harbor Township just hasn’t appealed to me much recently. Lately, every time I intend to do a long run to make some progress on it, I get as far as looking at my progress map and then just deciding I would rather do my long run on trails instead of what I know are busy roads. Maybe I’ll go back to it at some point, but for now that project is more or less in a holding pattern.

I’ll definitely complete my attempt at the 12 minute aerobic fitness test. After all, it only takes 12 minutes. I wish I would have done one earlier in the year so I could do it a couple more times throughout the year to see if I’m making progress or regressing. Maybe that will be a goal for next year.

With my top goals completed and my other goals not requiring a great deal of time, the question of what to do for the rest of the year arises. I think I have the answer, which is to work towards my more long term goal of running at Big’s Backyard in Tennessee. In order to do that, I basically have to build my long distance running resume by running backyard races. So that is my plan for the remainder of the year: find a backyard race that works with my schedule and train hard to go as far as I can there. And that’s it. To sum up my current major running goal is as simple as the the words: "Big's or bust".


Scott Snell
July 19, 2021

Friday, June 4, 2021

2021 Keystone Backyard Ultra - Hope and Faith against a DNF






The inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra (KBU) would be my third backyard format style race. It would also offer the largest and deepest field of runners of any backyard race I had run. This combination of race format and runner depth offers the opportunity for distance runners to push themselves to their limit. It also offers the greatest chance for their race to end with a DNF (Did Not Finish). With the chance for a great reward comes substantial risk. I set two conflicting goals for myself leading into this race. The first being to not quit and find my limit. I wanted to push myself and be pushed by the competition to find my breaking point and see just where my limit lies. I wanted to find out how many laps I could complete before the required minimum pace became unsustainable for me. The second being to finish the race without a DNF. To achieve one goal, the other must be sacrificed. You can’t have both and a sacrifice must be made to succeed at one or the other. In a sense, I got to choose my sacrifice, but one of my two goals had to be sacrificed for the success of the other. Of course, there was also the possibility that I could have failed on both counts.

The DNF bracelet was turned in when a runner DNF'd.

The backyard race format seems to still be growing in popularity with more races of this format popping up around the world. It’s a unique format as it has no set total distance or time that runners must complete; they must simply go farther than every other runner there. The standard format is a 4.167̅ mile loop that is run every hour on the hour. Every runner must finish the loop within the hour and then be at the starting line for the start of the next loop at the next hour. If the runner doesn’t make it back within the hour or is not at the starting line for the start of the next lap, that runner is out of the race with a DNF. This continues until only one runner is left. The winner must complete one loop more within the hour than any other runner. There is also the possibility that the race wins if multiple runners go out for a loop and all fail to finish before the hour cut off. It’s a harsh and unforgiving format that is as mentally draining as it is physically.

Runners' aid station areas.

The original backyard ultra, Big’s Backyard hosted by the infamous Lazarus Lake aka Gary Cantrell, alternates between a trail loop during the day and a road loop during the night. KBU diverged from this format by using a single trail loop for the entirety of the race. This was done as a safety precaution at the request of the hosting venue. The race was held at Mauch Chunk Lake Park in Jim Thorpe, PA. The park is home to a 345-acre reservoir which was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in early 1972 to protect the town of Jim Thorpe from damaging and recurring flooding of Mauch Chunk Creek. In addition to a flood control project, the reservoir and dam provide an outdoor recreational area. The park hosts access to a network of trails: Switchback Trail (13.7 miles), Shoreline Trail (0.8 miles), Fireline and Galen’s Surprise Trail (9.9 miles), Orchard Trail (0.8 miles), Board Bottom Trail (0.5 miles), and Anna’s Trail (0.4 miles). However, the course for the race would only showcase about 4 miles of trails.
 
Image from race website https://keystonebackyardultra.weebly.com/course-info.html

The course for the race was basically a large lollipop type course with a loop built into the lollipop. The start/finish area for the race was a large grass field directly across from the parking area for the lake. It provided a great view and ample space for runners to set up their personalized aid station and recovery areas. The course started by following a 0.1 mile stretch of the paved entrance road to the switchback trail. This roughly one mile section of the trail felt mostly like a rail trail. There was one short hill up a gravel stretch, but otherwise any elevation change in this section was extremely gradual. The course then turned, hopping on Board Bottom for the looped section of the course. This half mile stretch of single track was easily the most technical section of the course. There were a couple short climbs and descents with exposed root and rocks scattered throughout, but it certainly wasn’t the most technical terrain I’ve seen in PA. The way the course was set up, this technical half mile stretch would be run twice every lap. After 1.5 miles on the Board Bottom / Switchback loop the course followed Anna’s trail for about 0.2 miles to the Orchard trail. Anna’s trail offered a bit more single track and the steepest climb of the entire course before dropping you off on to the Orchard trail. The Orchard trail was basically a grass pathway, wooded on both sides. While it was not steep, it did offer a subtle change in elevation that was far more noticeable as the miles wore on. From there it was about a 0.8 mile stretch until connecting back with the Switchback trail to return to the start/finish area.

A prerace selfie. 

I went into this race a bit nervous. Partly because of the high chance of facing my first DNF, but mostly because I wasn’t certain if my training had been appropriate to best prepare me for this type of race. The KBU was only 5 weeks after my last race, a 24 hour race (Adventure Trail Run) where I ran about 103 miles. Going into a race that I was almost certain would go over 100 miles only a little over a month since my last 100 mile effort made me nervous about how my body would hold up. It also made getting any good training between the two races difficult. I was mostly recovered from the 24 hour race after about a week or two, but that only gave me about a week of real training if I wanted to do a two week taper before KBU. I ran my normal, shorter daily runs and a couple mid distance weekend runs, but I wasn’t able to squeeze in a long run on one of the weekends between the races as I had hoped to. My longest run in the interim was about an 11 miler. I had run two 100 milers (Eastern States and Tesla Hertz) a little over a month apart before using the same strategy and it seemed to work out alright for me, but that was a few years ago. However, it did provide some peace of mind and kept me from panicking.

Planning my strategy for the race and nutrition were the other key factors I focused on leading up to the race. During my last two backyard format races (Run Ragged and Last Idiot Standing) my strategy was a slow and steady pace throughout. I would run/walk my lap and finish with about 8-12 minutes until the start of the next. For me, less sitting between laps but just enough time to discard trash, refill bottles, and get some calories in was ideal. Since this strategy had worked so well for me so far, I planned to use it at KBU. Nutrition was a bit tougher to plan as only hydration was provided at KBU. No aid station food was provided due to covid precautions. I went with what has been a consistent performer for me in past long, hard efforts, the glorious pierogi. I boiled a box of Mrs. T’s potato and cheese pierogis the day before the race and tossed them in a tupperware with melted butter. My other goto for actual food is mashed potatoes. I prepared a family size package of Idahoan instant potatoes and added about two scoops to small flour tortillas to make about 8 mini mashed potato burritos. I tossed the extra mashed potato into another tupperware. I also packed a couple cans of chicken and rice soup, Chef Boyardee mini raviolis, and three peanut butter sandwiches. I stocked up on snacks and some sweets as well: Funyuns, pretzels, dill flavored chips, sour patch kids, candied ginger, and chocolate covered espresso beans. I also packed some hydration treats in my cooler: coconut water, Coca-Cola, aloe water, and iced coffee.

A few hours in.

With all my calorie and hydration needs in order, I packed my other aid station gear and made the drive from South Jersey to Jim Thorpe, PA the evening before the race. I arrived at Mauch Chunk Lake Park a little over an hour before the race start. I got my shade tent up and arranged my chair, cooler, food tub, and sleeping bag. I had all I needed to run 100 or possibly 200 miles, at least that was my mindset that morning.

I ran my first couple laps just getting accustomed to the trail and the course. With close to 100 runners, it felt a bit crowded early on when everyone started the early laps. Of course the field would continually dwindle as the miles accumulated. The only part of the course that worried me a bit was the loop within the lollipop section of the course. The loop required you to make a right at a fork in the trail your first time around and a left your second time around to basically run the loop 1.5 times. It sounded straight forward and the signage posted by the race organizers was great and very intuitive, but I couldn’t help but worry that at some point when I was exhausted and sleep deprived I would forget which lap I was on when I hit that fork. Thankfully that never happened. After running the course so many times, I was just on autopilot mode and not even thinking about the turns I was making.

The first few hours of the backyard are deceiving. It feels easy. You’re not pushing your pace, you’re taking in calories regularly, and you’re having fun learning your personal routine for the short course. I set landmarks for myself to measure where I should be on the course and at what time. I had planned walk break sections and a set point when I ate my energy gel. Foot placement in certain stretches of trail became a planned activity after several laps. As the day went on and temperatures reached the upper 80s, the exact route was modified slightly to stay in shaded areas of the more open stretches of the course. Besides that, my pace and foot placement had become a precise pattern for every lap.

A few more hours in.

The sun set and the headlamp came out. We would soon get some reprieve from the heat of the sun, but the temperatures would stay in the mid 60s overnight. The field had been reduced by the time it was dark, but I would guess there were still 40 or so runners going out every lap. The race offered a few unique race bib awards for certain achievements during the course of the race. There was one for the fastest first lap, slowest first lap, fastest first night loop, 100 mile club, and of course last person standing. At some point over night I was hoping that the race director had enough of the 100 mile bibs as it seemed like there would be a pretty good sized group of runners finishing that 24th loop to hit the 100 mile distance. I was wrong about that though as runners started dropping pretty quickly during the wee hours of the morning.

The overnight portion of the race went pretty well for me. I started feeling pretty drowsy around 3-4 am, but a couple pierogies and some chocolate covered espresso beans brought me back. I also started laying down on my sleeping bag for just a few minutes between laps. I didn’t have time to fall asleep, not sure if I even could have if I tried, but it felt refreshing just to close my eyes lying down and stretching out my legs.

The first night loop.

Once the sun rose I realized how much our numbers had been depleted. We were down to the final four runners. Of the four runners left, I had only chatted with one of them. His name was Tom and in our short conversation around the 8th or 9th loop I learned that he had run and finished multiple 200 mile races including one in the Swiss Alps. I was not surprised to see him still lining up to go out as we approached the 100 mile mark. After the 100 mile lap the two runners I hadn’t chatted with both dropped leaving just Tom and I to continue on. I congratulated one of the guys that dropped on his 100 mile day. He said something along the lines that it looked like both Tom and I were in it for the long haul and he was happy with 100 so he was calling it.

The before and after.
 
By this point I was out of pierogies and was starting in on my mini mashed potato burritos. Unfortunately my tupperware allowed cooler water to leak in and all my individually plastic wrapped burritos were soggy with the cooler water I had been dipping my sweaty hat and neck cooler in. I drained them as best I could and continued to eat them. They still tasted fine and I needed the calories. The extra moisture actually probably made them easier to get down more quickly.

 

We went on matching each other lap for lap as the miles accumulated and the heat of the day rose to nearly 90. It was around 120ish miles that the first thought of quitting entered my mind. I started having a little pain in my front right ankle. It felt like it wasn’t getting worse, but I started telling myself that if it did then it might be time to call it. The ache felt like an overuse tendonitis injury. I probably paid too much attention to it trying to decide if it was getting worse or staying the same. That was the mind game I played on myself. I wanted to quit if I was going to injure 
myself and not be able to run. Then I started questioning if I was using this pain as an excuse to quit. When I thought about quitting I was planning the timeline in my head. My ankle is injured, I’ll quit this lap, pack my stuff in an hour, drive 2 hours home, and I’ll be home before dark and see my kids before bedtime. It sounded so much better than continuing on in pain in the heat, but that is what made me scrutinize the decision so thoroughly. If I was quitting because of an injury, it had better damn well be an injury worthy of quitting not just a convenient injury that I was using as an excuse to go home. How could I distinguish the two? Thinking of my kids reminded me of what they said to me before I left and what I promised them. They both said "I hope you win." And I responded with "I'm going to try my best." Thinking of that and looking at the poster they made that I hung in my aid area kept me going back out for another lap even as motivation was beginning to lack.

The sign my wife and kids' made me.

It wasn’t long after this internal struggle I was having with myself that I noticed Tom’s pace started slowing. He was usually always either nearly or completely out of sight from me when I made the turn onto the 0.8 mile straight stretch of the sun exposed Orchard trail. The lap when I noticed this (I believe the 29th) he was probably only a minute or two ahead of me. The following lap the same thing happened only his pace dropped off even more. I caught up to him at about the 3 mile marker. I talked to him a bit, but he seemed kinda out of it. I wasn’t sure if the heat was getting to him or something else was going on, but he wasn’t too chatty at the time. That was one of the few laps that I finished before him. He came back in from that lap looking a bit depleted and stopped at my tent. He didn’t say anything, but I thought he was getting ready to say he wasn’t going back out. I tried to just chat a little saying how that sun exposed section of the trail was getting a bit warm. He agreed then went to his aid set up to prepare to go back out. He lined up and went out on the 31st loop but stopped while we were still on the paved section and called me. He told me his legs were feeling gassed and his pace had dropped off. He said he wasn’t sure if he would make this lap within the hour so he might turn back if it looked like he wasn’t going to make it. He told me if that was the case, to go kick some ass and get that last lap done. I was excited to think that the race was almost over, but also uncertain. He yelled up to me again just as I was heading down the Switchback trail. He said he didn’t think it was going to work for him. I yelled back that either way I’ll see him back at base. I ran that lap looking back quite a bit. I thought maybe he just walked for a bit and then he got his legs back. He had looked so strong for 120 miles without showing any sign of exhaustion that I just couldn’t believe how suddenly his pace had plummeted. I continued thinking that and looking back for the entire loop until I returned to the paved section of the course where the final volunteer on course was assisting with traffic control. It was there that the volunteer told me that the other guy had turned back and I finally knew that this was my victory lap.

I ran the final stretch in with the volunteer that had given me the news ringing his cowbell the last tenth of a mile. Race staff, volunteers, and a few spectators that were still around all cheered as I finished my final loop to hit 129 miles. The race director, Jake Martinez, and Tom were both there to congratulate me at the finish line. After some finish line pics and being presented with a really cool Aravaipa Artworx trophy, I was able to relax and chat a bit about the race with Tom and Jake. While chatting, the topic of mind games between Tom and I came up. I think someone asked what kind of mind games we played on each other when it was just the two of us out there. Neither of us were really playing mind games with each other. We weren’t even running together the majority of the time as our paces on different sections of the course were just different. Without either of us really having a mind game to divulge, Tom volunteered that he was trying to finish the loop before me and out of my sight to mess with me a little. Then he brought up the one lap where I went out fast early and finished out of his sight. I explained that I wasn’t running that lap fast to mess with him at all; I just had to poop and was trying to carve out some extra time between laps to hit the portapotty. Maybe it was too much information for the small crowd there, but I was a bit sleep deprived and excited having just won so my filter was pretty much turned off at that point.

Congratulatory poster my Mom made for me. 

This format of race is so mental that a runner can easily defeat themselves before the true competition has ever really started. I nearly did it to myself by using the ache in my ankle as a valid reason to quit. At some point, it all comes down to hope and faith that things will work out and somehow you will succeed. This race was the greatest distance I had ever run. That and the accompanying mindset of curiosity (as to how far/long I could go without breaking) that I tried to maintain helped keep me moving. Surprisingly, it was a podcast I listened to during my drive to Jim Thorpe that helped me to reinforce that mindset of curiosity. It was an interesting podcast with Dr. Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, psychiatry, and behavioral science and director of the Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine about research on the psychology of psychedelics. During the podcast, at one point Dr. Griffiths stressed that an essential requirement of subject selection for his studies was that the subject expressed a true nature of curiosity in the lead up to the psychedelic experience. He talked about the intense and realistic appearance of demons that some subjects described during their psychedelic experience and how if they approached that demon, however frightening it may be, with a raw sense of curiosity the experience was less frightening and anxiety inducing. While listening to this, I decided that was how I would approach my experience into an unknown distance, with a true sense of curiosity and a desire to learn how far and how long I could go before it was too much. This mindset gave me additional reason to keep going when I felt like not moving anymore.

Race Director Jake Martinez and I. Photo credit: Matt Jurgs (https://www.instagram.com/matt_jurgs/

With a victory and a new PR for my longest distance ever run, I was pretty pumped about how the whole race played out. The PR for longest distance was one of my running goals for the year so I got to check that box. However, the look on my boys' faces when they woke up the morning after I got home and told them I won and showed them the trophy was definitely far more rewarding than the PR pride. And the icing on the cake was the cash prize ($12.50 per lap) the race awarded me for being the last person standing. The cash prize covered all of the expenses (race registration fee, hotel, gas, tolls, food, etc.) I incurred to run the race. With all of my expenses basically reimbursed, I decided that since I had failed at my earlier fundraising efforts to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that I would donate the remaining difference of how much my fundraiser had raised and what my fundraising target amount was. After feeling like a failure for running two 100 mile plus races and not hitting my fundraising goals, seeing that fundraising goal met was a pretty sweet reward.

Me in front of the lake I had just washed up in.

And that pretty much sums up the whole story of my experience at the inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra. But before I wrap this up, I want to add one more anecdote that didn’t fit in at an earlier point. After all the festivities were over and pictures were taken I layed down on my sleeping bag and closed my eyes for a bit. I’m not sure if I slept, but I just wanted to relax for a bit before making the drive home. I mentioned earlier about the lake directly across from the start/finish area. Well, after I rested for a bit, I decided that the lake looked irresistible for a guy who felt dirty and needed to get refreshed. I had soil caked on my legs from the trail dust sticking to my sweat. And I thought that washing my face would reinvigorate me for the drive home. I sauntered across the road to the lake swimming area. As I got closer I began to realize how busy it was. There were many families there with kids swimming, playing, and splashing in the water. I became a little self conscious about washing up in the lake with so many kids playing in the water, but I had come so far at this point that it felt like I was beyond the point of no return. I continued on towards the water. I avoided eye contact with children and parents alike. I stepped out of my Oofos sandals at the water’s edge and waded in. After 30 some hours without sleep and running 129 miles, I assumed that how I was walking and my overall appearance may have suggested that I was likely drunk and homeless. I could sense the parents’ collective apprehension about me as I rinsed my face in the water and scrubbed the trail dirt off my calves. I felt ashamed, but I continued on. I exited the lake with my eyes staring at my feet while the parents pulled their children away from my direction. It was an extreme shift of emotions from the high I was just on at the finish line receiving a trophy and it certainly didn’t feel like my proudest moment at that point. But that is the point where the experience ended and that is where I will end this report.




Scott Snell
June 5, 2021



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Chasing DNFs: Prepping For A Last Person Standing Race

















It’s less than 2 weeks until my next last person standing race. It’s only been 3 weeks since my last long distance ultramarathon which was my first 24 hour race during which I ended up covering about 103 miles. I feel pretty much fully recovered, but the 5 week interval between long distance ultramarathons seemed to go quickly and I don’t feel as prepared for this last person standing as I did for the 24 hour race format.

Maybe my less prepared feeling for this race is due to the short interval of time between recovery and tapering. It could also be in part due to the nature of the last person standing race format. If you’re not familiar with the race format rules, you can read a concise description of them in my race report on the first last person standing race (Run Ragged) I ran in 2019. One of the most unique aspects of the rules for this race format is that there can be only one finisher; all other participants are technically DNFs (Did Not Finish). It’s a rather harsh reality to accept for a race format that typically pushes multiple runners to go well over the 100 mile mark. All but one of those runners will get the same DNF that they would have received had they timed out or chosen to drop out at the 50 mile mark. It’s a little intimidating to embrace such a brutal race format, but in a way that is what makes it so attractive.

My many faces and meals during Run Ragged, 2019.

Having never been the recipient of a DNF, the thought of running a race that gives you the absolute best chance possible of ending with one is a bit intimidating. This will be the third last person standing race I have run. I know I had this feeling with the first two, but with those two successful attempts of being the only finisher I feel additional pressure has mounted for me to do well with this race format. It is of course all self induced, internal pressure. I’m not an ultrarunner who lives by the whole “Death before DNF” motto, but I’m not a quitter either. I like to run tough, challenging courses and I will admit that I carry a bit of pride having finished every race I’ve started even when they presented some pretty difficult situations.

Finisher awards from my first two last person standing races.

So why risk running head on into that first DNF with a last person standing race? The answer is basically the same as the one to “why run an ultramarathon?” for me. For the challenge and to push the limits to see what I am capable of. What better way to test the limits than a race of an unknown distance determined only by the performance and will of the participants, a race format that can have only one finisher and the potential to have no finishers. I can’t imagine a better way, and that is my “why”.



Scott Snell
May 11, 2021